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Saturday, April 7, 2012

Hoppy Reading!

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am Christian, and the holidays of Christmas and Easter are very important to me.  Because of that, I like to read Christmas and Easter-themed books -- to myself and to my kids.  I write about them here to share with others who also celebrate these holidays and are looking for books about them.  

It is not my wish, however, to exclude any of my readers.  If you have recommendations for good books about Passover, Ostara, or any other spring holidays or traditions that are important to you, please let me know.  I always enjoy checking out new books and learning about other cultures!  And I would be happy to share information about the books here on my blog.

I love Easter.  I love the joy I feel at church on Easter morning -- the beautiful, resounding music, the sea of white Easter lilies at the altar, the smiles on every face, and most of all, the story of the resurrection and God's incredible love for the world.  I also enjoy the secular traditions surrounding Easter -- decorating eggs, putting up bunny and chick decor, finding baskets filled with goodies, cooking a delicious Easter dinner.  

As with other holidays throughout the year, I like to gather books about Easter to read with my kids in the days leading up to it.  Some books we own and read every year, others I pick up at our library.  Here I will share some of the stories I've been reading with my son Benjamin this year.

These first three books are focused mainly on the religious aspect of Easter:

The Story of Easter, written by Patricia A. Pingry and illustrated by Lorraine Wells, 1997... This little board book introduces the difficult concepts of Jesus' death and resurrection in a gentle way, suitable for very young children.

My mother-in-law gave this book to my daughter Emmalie when she was a toddler.  Since then, I have used its simple language to tell the Easter story to each of my kids when they were two, three, and four.  Even at six years old, Ben still enjoys this book, and now can read it on his own.

The Story of the Easter Robin, written by Dandi Daley Mackall and illustrated by Anna Vojtech, 2010... Tressa watches a robin building a nest by the window, and worries about all the things that could go wrong.  Gran tells the girl that she needs to trust the Creator to take care of the robin and her eggs.  Then Gran teaches Tressa an old Pennsylvania Dutch tradition, making oschter-foggel (Easter birds) from blown-out eggs.

While they work, Gran recites the legend (also from the Pennsylvania Dutch) of the robin's red breast.  This story-inside-a-story tells how a small brown robin, present at Jesus' crucifixion, helps remove a thorn from his forehead.

Vojtech's beautiful illustrations drew me to this book.  After reading the words,  Mackall's story about faith, compassion, traditions, and the love between a grandmother and her grandchild touched my heart.

Easter Eggs for Anya: A Ukrainian Celebration of New Life in Christ, written by Virginia Kroll and illustrated by Sally Wern Comport, 2007... In the Ukraine in the early nineteenth century, Christians decorated pysanky eggs to give away on Easter.  With Anya's father away at war, her family is too poor to buy any eggs for Easter.  When the girl discovers an abandoned nest of goose eggs, she dreams of surprising her family by making pysanky eggs for each of them.  However, Anya is in for a surprise of her own!  (While the plot itself may not be religious in nature, Anya prays to God throughout the book.)

In addition to the story, Kroll provides a note about the history of pysanky eggs, gives instructions for making a kid-friendly version of the eggs, and also suggests a game to play using pysanky designs.

I found this to be a sweet, heartwarming story.  Ben thought it was interesting to learn about some customs different from our own, and couldn't wait to try making pysanky designs on his own Easter eggs!

Although I wouldn't call the following a religious book, a section of the story does take place at church and includes a small part of the preacher's sermon:

Miz Fannie Mae's Fine New Easter Hat, written by Melissa Milich and illustrated by Yong Chen, 1997... Tandy and Daddy want Mama to have a fancy new hat for Easter Sunday, and finally they find one that is perfect for her.  Little do they know, however, just how special the hat really is!

This is a longer story than many of the others listed here, but it is well-written and will likely hold the attention of young school-age children.  It provides a glimpse of the past with an unexpected ending.

The rest of these books are secular stories about the Easter Bunny and springtime:

The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes, written by Du Bose Heyward and illustrated by Marjorie Hack, 1939... In this story, five rabbits are chosen to be Easter Bunnies, and they must be "the five kindest, and swiftest, and wisest bunnies in the whole world."  A young country bunny longs to be chosen, but the other rabbits just laugh at her.  Even when she grows up, and is mother to twenty-one little rabbits, she still dreams of being an Easter Bunny.  When she's finally given the chance, her actions show just how kind and swift and wise... and brave... she is.

I remember my parents reading this story to me when I was a young girl.  I loved the pictures and the tale of the brave, kind, wise mother bunny.  We bought a copy of the book for Emmalie when she was two, and she insisted on hearing it over and over again.  Both of my boys have treasured the story over the years, as well.

Easter Babies: A Springtime Counting Book, written by Joy N. Hulme and illustrated by Dan Andreasen, 2010... Springtime means baby animals, and in this book there are plenty of them for your little one to count!

Though this book is geared more toward toddlers and preschoolers, my Kindergartner and I loved looking at Andreasen's endearing artwork.  And I know that Ben (and my older two) would've enjoyed counting the baby animals on each page if we'd had this book when they were younger.

There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Chick, written by Lucille Colandro and illustrated by Jared Lee, 2009...  A spin on the folk song of the old lady who swallowed a fly, this is a very silly Easter book.  (Ben wanted to know, "How many of these old ladies that eat crazy things are there, anyway?")

Ben and I laughed out loud at every page until we got near the end.  We both had the same reaction there, too -- ewwwww!  I won't give away the ending; I'll just say that it is a bit disturbing!  (But still funny.)

The Great Easter Egg Hunt, written and illustrated by Michael Garland, 2005... Tommy follows rhyming clues to find his Aunt Jeanne.  His trek takes him through an Easter wonderland, filled with a whimsical egg factory, a jellybean machine, huge chocolate bunnies, and much more.  The appeal of this book isn't so much the story, but Garland's bright artwork and the games hidden inside it -- including a maze, a giant egg word search, and over 200 objects to find.

Though Ben appreciated all of the books I've shared here, this was his favorite one.  He LOVES games of any kind, and spent hours poring through this book, searching for all the hidden objects!

Milo the Really Big Bunny, written by Stephen Krensky and illustrated by Melissa Suber, 2006... Milo is big.  Really big.  He wants to help the Easter Bunny, but Milo can't hop quickly or quietly like the other rabbits, and he isn't very good at dying eggs, either.  One windy, rainy Easter morning, though, Milo discovers a way he can be of help.

Ben and I found this Rudolph-the-red-nosed-reindeer-like story quite entertaining, and Suber's goofy illustrations made us giggle!

The Night Before Easter, written by Natasha Wing and illustrated by Kathy Couri, 1999... A charming, Easter-y spin on the beloved Christmas poem, this book tells of a young child watching the Easter Bunny at work.

As with its Christmas counterpart, this is a fun book to recite.  Ben and I also liked the cartoonish illustrations.

Easter Parade, song lyrics written by Irving Berlin (1933) and illustrated by Lisa McCue, 2003... McCue's cute bunny illustrations accompany Berlin's famous song lyrics about the Easter parade and a girl with a fancy Easter bonnet.  Music for the song is included on the last page of the book.

Ben had never heard this song before and got a kick out of my attempts to sing it for him as we went through the book.  (I did have to stop and explain what a "rotogravure" was before I could continue.)  He also liked how the artwork tells a story of its own.

Who Hid the Easter Eggs?, written and illustrated by Pirkko Vainio, 2010... Harry the squirrel watches a grandmother hiding beautiful eggs for her grandchildren to find.  Later, Harry spies Jack the jackdaw flying off with an egg, and discovers that the bird has taken all of the eggs for his nest.  How will Harry save the Easter egg hunt?

Ben and I especially enjoyed Vainio's illustrations and the satisfying (though predictable) ending.

And Then It's Spring, written by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Erin E. Stead, 2012... After a long winter, a boy and his dog have had enough of the color brown and are anxious for some green.  They plant seeds and then must wait and wait and wait.

I love the childlike, poetic language that Fogliano uses -- and her gentle humor, as well. Stead's tender illustrations are a perfect companion to the story.  This book is now on my "to buy" list. :)

In addition to all the fictional stories shown above, Ben and I also enjoyed this nonfiction book:

Easter, written by Nancy I. Sanders, 2003... Filled with colorful photographs, this book explains the Easter holiday in an easy-to-understand and interesting way.  Sanders tells her readers about the origins of Easter, how it evolved over the years, and how it is celebrated around the world today.

Have you read any of the books listed above?  What did you think of them?  What are your favorite Easter or springtime books?  I'd love to hear about them!

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